Boys Basketball – Manasquan Tops Shore in Key A Central Clash
WEST LONG BRANCH – Manasquan seniors Jack Fay and Tommy Toole have been in as many big postseason games as any tandem in the Shore Conference over the past two seasons. At the end of this year’s Shore Conference Class A Central race, the battle-tested senior duo may turn out to be the difference between Manasquan and the field.
In a game Tuesday that could effectively give Manasquan its second straight division title, Fay scored 20 points while recording seven assists and three steals, and Toole added nine points while locking down Shore Regional leading scorer Dan Pillari to help the Warriors beat the Blue Devils, 64-53.
With the win, Manasquan moves within two division wins of clinching another Class A Central title and its final two games are a home-and-home with Raritan (4-16 overall record, 2-10 in Class A Central).
“The seniors on this team have played in some big games and the younger guys have started to get some experience and are learning what it takes to win games like this,” Fay said. “Tom and I are the leaders on this team, and we talk every game about what to expect, especially against a tough opponent on the road.”
The Warriors have separated themselves from the rest of the division by winning important games on the road and, according to head coach Andrew Bilodeau, Fay and Toole are the primary reason Manasquan is able to win in road environments.
Although Manasquan did drop a divisional road game at Red Bank Catholic on Jan. 24, every other team in the division has dropped at least two road games.
“Jack and Tommy are three-year starters who have been major contributors on very good teams and in Jack Sheehan, we’ve got a sophomore who is going to be a very good player and is already a heck of a player,” Bilodeau said. “In my opinion, those three guys make up one of the best backcourts, if not the best backcourt, in the Shore. The guys who picked the preseason (division rankings) didn’t think so, but we thought so.”
Shore entered Tuesday’s game unbeaten on its home floor and on a nine-game winning streak overall, but trailed from the opening minute. Manasquan opened the game on a 9-0 run and built its lead as high as 13 without allowing Shore within more than five points.
Fay, Sheehan and Ryan Jensen combined for all 19 Manasquan points in the first quarter and the three starters accounted for 49 of Manasquan’s points. Jensen finished with 18 points while Sheehan added 13, including 10 in the first half.
“One thing we always preach is ‘keep coming, never let up,’” Fay said. “When you get a lead, you have to dig deeper and keep playing hard because you know a good team is going to make a run. Getting off to a start like that is huge because it can really demoralize the other team as long as you keep playing hard. We got off to a great start, got them behind early and it turned out to be the difference in the game.”
Toole drew the primary assignment on Pillari, who had scored at least 22 points in four straight games for Shore and also has a 41-point game against St. Joseph-Metuchen under his belt. Against a mix of a one-on-one match-up with Toole and against a 1-3-1 zone employed by the Warriors, Pillari scored just once from the field before scoring two layups during the late stages of the fourth quarter to finish with 10 points.
“Tommy did a great job on him,” Bilodeau said. “I think he’s the best defensive player in the Shore, and I’ve been saying that for three years.”
Junior Jack Byrne led Shore with 19 points and fellow junior Kevin Bloodgood – Shore’s second-leading scorer behind Pillari – scored 10 points.
Manasquan has once again been the toast of Class A Central this season and although the Warriors have not played any of the other division leaders and have played only two Shore Conference teams – Colts Neck and Wall – outside the division, they have been mostly dominant against a Class A Central division that will likely have five teams qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament – four of which have been ranked in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 at some point this season.
“This team has been through some battles,” Bilodeau said. “I think our (division) is as good as any in the Shore. Night in and night out, it’s been super. You have three teams in us, Shore and RBC that have been in the top 10 pretty much all year, and it doesn’t stop there. There aren’t any easy ones.”
“Every game we play, night after night, is a challenge and that’s the way you want to prepare for the tournament,” Fay said. “Obviously, there are other good teams out there, and we feel like we’re one of them. If you want to compete for championships, you have to believe you’re as good as anybody out there and that’s how we feel about this team.”
Manasquan 64, Shore 53
|Manasquan (14-2, 11-1)|
|Shore (15-6, 9-4)|
Manasquan (64): Tommy Toole 3 2-6 9, Jack Fay 5 10-13 20, Ryan Jensen 8 0-2 16, Luke Tausek 1 0-0 2, Jack Sheehan 4 4-5 13, Aidan McMenaman 1 0-0 2, Ryan Kavanaugh 1 0-0 2, Nick Gilly 0 0-0 0, Nick Paturzo 0 0-0 0. Totals: 23 16-26 64
Three-pointers: Toole, Sheehan
Shore (53): Dan Pillari 3 4-5 10, Kevin Bloodgood 4 2-2 10, Dan Largey 2 2-2 7, Matt Cosentino 2 1-2 5, Jack Byrne 8 2-2 19, Billy Deerin 0 1-2 1, Matt McCarthy 0 0-0 0, Rob Gialanella 0 1-2 1. Totals: 19 13-17 53
Three-pointers: Largey, Byrne